The grid Ja­panese kabuki prints

Ja­panese kabuki prints cap­ture the art form’s out­landish en­ergy

The Observer - The New Review - - Agenda -

Kabuki is a form of tra­di­tional Ja­panese the­atre that was hugely pop­u­lar from the 1600s to the 1800s. Stylised and spec­tac­u­lar, it fea­tured su­per­star male ac­tors whose wild ex­pres­sions were of­ten im­mor­talised by artists such as Uta­gawa Ku­nisada (1786-1865) and then re­pro­duced us­ing wooden print­ing blocks. Tim Clark, head of the Bri­tish Mu­seum’s Ja­panese sec­tion, has just ac­quired 359 of these prints that will go on dis­play at the mu­seum next year. “The prints served as a me­mento for fans of how a par­tic­u­lar ac­tor in­ter­preted a par­tic­u­lar role,” he says. “Each de­sign was sold at an af­ford­able price – prover­bially, ‘for a bit more than a dou­ble help­ing of noo­dles’.” For Clark, they’re an “amaz­ing” glimpse into the past. “They still trans­mit the en­ergy and beauty of per­for­mances from 200 years ago.” Harry Lye

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